“Obviously, it was a special, special night just knowing all the difficulties of getting all the girls in with a short amount of time,” head coach Emmanuel Stephens said. “It was good knowing where we came from, the struggle of it, and just seeing the joy and the excitement in the girls. Winning covers a lot of the frustrations and the pain that goes with trying to build a program.”
The team started the season with two tough losses to Belhaven University and Truett-McConnell College.
In the game against Toccoa Falls, the team led 6-0 at the end of the first half while being fueled by two goals by Brenda Perez and Vianey Blanquel and a goal by Aurora Cancino and a goal by Maria Jose Brenes. Blanquel, Cancino, and Brenes each added another goal in the second half and Natalie Dioubate scored a goal. Blanquel and Perez led the team with two assists, while Dioubate, Brenes and Cancino each had an assist. Lauren Alpizar, Margaret Lovelace, and Josabeth Martinez also contributed assists. Jocelyn Romero and Lovelace combined for the shutout as goalkeepers.
“Coming from a different country, it’s a great feeling,” Alpizar said. “I’m so grateful to be here and be a part of history. This is opening new history for everybody. It’s a great opportunity for everybody to do well.”
Forward Perez was similarly excited by the win.
“It’s an amazing feeling when you score or you’re working as a team,” she said. “We all come together after we score and celebrate together. It’s a great feeling winning our first game and knowing that we made history.”
Stephens started on the job May 6, so he wasn’t afforded the luxury of time to recruit a bevy of players for depth purposes and iron out rough spots that are typical for a first-year program. The team has a roster of 13 players, which is comparatively small. For instance, Toccoa Falls fields a roster of 22 players. Still, his players say he has shown a great deal of patience.
“We have gotten used to the way he wants us to play, the way he tells us to play,” defensive midfielder Lauren Alpizar said. “Coach (Stephens) has been patient with the ones who are just barely learning the sport. He makes time to explain stuff and the (more experienced) girls are very supportive.”
With his sights set on even greater achievements, Stephens has already been focusing squarely on the next game, which is today at Wesleyan College.
“I think the next few games are going to be a test,” Stephens said. “We’ll see what we can do. It was great to get the win. For me, I don’t like to get caught up on it and make sure they don’t either because we have another game. So, it was one game, but it was exciting just to see their excitement.”
Defender Dioubate believes playing for Talladega College has given her a unique opportunity.
“We’re all from different places, so we have a chance to be able to know each other—some of us are from Mexico, Costa Rica, Africa, Jamaica—so it’s exciting to get to know everybody from different places,” Dioubate said. “I’ve never actually been on a team where I’ve seen so many people from different countries. So, I’m excited to be a part of that.”
Perez has seen the team come a long way from the very beginnings of the program.
“At first, it was just seven of us,” she said. “The team got a little bit bigger; we only have 13 players. From the beginning until now, we’ve grown so much. We are like a family. We stick together, we have each other’s backs and I love all the girls.”
Stephens is confident about his team’s chances in today’s game against Wesleyan College.
“Our next game is against a similar type of team in the sense that it’s definitely a game that we should win, which sounds funny being a first-year program and only having 13 girls but it’s a game that I think we should definitely win,” Stephens said. “Then we play Mississippi College. That’s going to be a tough game, maybe a game that we go through some more growing pains. But Wesleyan we should definitely win. I’ve never lost to them in my coaching career.”
Talladega College plays at Wesleyan College with kickoff at 5 p.m.